Respectful Insolence

What is an “altie”? (2006 edition)

About a year ago, I introduced the blogosphere to a term that had become common on certain Usenet newsgroups. I can’t take credit for coining the term, but I think I can take some degree of credit for disseminating it to a wider audience.

That term is “altie,” and has a meaning similar to the term “woo-woo,” in that it describes people who are so militantly pro-alternative medicine and so distrustful of conventional medicine that they will never admit when conventional medicine is effective and refuse ever to concede that any alternative medical practitioner might, just might, possibly be a quack. Part and parcel of being an altie is an anti-intellectual and antiscientific attitude that does not allow a little thing like evidence to sway one from one’s belief in the power of alternative medicine. The term was inspired by the online behavior of certain regulars on misc.health.alternative. About a year before my post, we had even come up with a Jeff Foxworthy-like list of traits of alties (“You might be an altie if…”). Several regulars in m.h.a. contributed, after a regular named Rich Shewmaker got the ball rolling. The post in which I listed some of these traits was arguably the first post in my early blogging career that drew a fair bit of attention, and the term altie seems to have spread far and wide beyond this blog.

I had always been meaning to do a followup post in which I updated the list to include many more characteristics of alties, especially since I’ve drawn the ire of a fair number of them since starting this blog, but amazingly, after well over a year, I’ve never gotten around to it. My move to ScienceBlogs provides me with the perfect excuse to finally get off my behind and do it, and I can’t think of a better way to cap off my first week on ScienceBlogs. Consequently, I took the original list, mixed them up a bit and rewrote some of them, and then added the contributions of others and ideas I came up with myself, and the following is the result.

DISCLAIMER: Before the hate mail and nasty comments start rolling in, please remember that the following traits (and the term “altie”) are not meant to describe all (or even most) users of alternative medicine or people who think certain alternative medicine modalities help them. (Although these people are often mistaken in their faith in alternative medicine, they are to some extent reachable by evidence.) The term “altie” describes a strident, anti-intellectual, and anti-science subset of alt-med users, who tend to make impossibly grandiose claims for their favorite remedy and usually also express a strong distrust (or even hatred) of conventional medicine. So, without further ado, here we go:

YOU JUST MIGHT BE AN ALTIE IF…

  • If you believe that doctors, scientists, and the pharmaceutical companies conspire to suppress your favorite “alternative medicine” modality, you just might be an altie.
  • If you like to claim that science is a religion, you might be an altie (or at the very least a creationist).
  • If you accept without questioning vague and/or poorly documented anecdotes and testimonials as sufficient evidence for you that an “alternative” therapy can produce remarkable results “curing” cancer, heart disease, autism, Alzheimers, heart disease, etc., but routinely brutally nitpick and then dismiss well-designed randomized, double-blinded Phase III clinical studies for conventional medicine, you just might be an altie.
  • If you believe that liver “flushes” actually cause gallstones to be “flushed” from your gallbladder and remove “toxins” from your liver, you just might be an altie. (Actually, if you believe that liver “flushes” do anything except give you exceptionally stinky diarrhea, you are almost certainly an altie.)
  • If you believe that coffee enemas and megadoses of carrot juice can cure cancer, you just might be an altie.)
  • If you make claims for a product or therapy like, “strengthens the immune system,” “restores balance,” “detoxifies the liver,” “cleanses the colon,” or “cleanses the blood,” you may be an altie.
  • If you are impressed by such claims when made by others, you just might be an altie.
  • If you do most of your “scientific” research on websites that exist to sell “alternative health” products, you might be an altie.
  • If you believe that a chiropractor can manipulate your spine without touching you and cure your back pain, you are probably an altie.
  • If you carefully avoid any criticism of any “alternative medicine” practitioner, product, or theory, regardless of how mind-numbingly obviously unscientific (homeopathy, for example), illogical, internally inconsistent, or fraudulent it may be, you might be an altie.
  • If you accept or agree with every vilification of medicine and science as The Truth, regardless of the source or of how obviously irrational, without basis, or unjustified the vilification is, you might just be an altie.
  • If you are utterly convinced that autism is a “misdiagnosis” for mercury poisoning, despite the fact that epidemiological and basic scientific studies do not support this hypothesis, that the number of new autism cases in the U.S. has not shown a sign of falling since thimerosal was removed from vaccines three years ago (ditto Denmark, where thimerosal was removed in the early 1990′s), and that autism does not share the symptomotology of mercury poisoning, you just might be an altie.
  • If you believe that changing the bond angle of water can cure cancer (or that a simple distillation and electrochemical apparatus actually can change the bond angle of water), you just might be an altie.
  • If you believe that Hulda Clark is being unjustly “persecuted” by “conventional medicine” and/or “the government” because she is a “threat,” you are very likely an altie.
  • If you believe that Hulda Clark has ever cured anybody of cancer or AIDS in her life and that her clinic is a place of hope, you just might be an altie.
  • If you believe that a liver fluke can cause all the diverse kinds of cancer out there and that “zapping” that fluke can cure all cancer and AIDS, you just might be an altie.
  • If you absolutely, positively cannot ever admit that a conventional therapy, any conventional medical therapy, can cure a disease, any disease, you may well be an altie.
  • If you believe that vaccines “don’t work,” that they “hurt the immune system,” or that they are a major cause autism or other chronic diseases, you just might be an altie.
  • If you routinely use Whale.to or Cure Zone as sources for medical information, you just might be an altie.
  • If you regularly post to the message boards on Cure Zone, you’re very likely to be an altie. Explanation: Cure Zone’s message boards are highly moderated. (Translation: censored.) Skeptical posts, no matter how polite, unabusive, or well-reasoned, are often summarily deleted by the moderators. If a skeptic persists in questioning the alt-med dogma there, he/she will usually eventually be banned by the moderators.
  • If you think misc.health.alternative should be a sunny little support group where true believers in alternative healthcare share testimonials and gleefully trash science and medicine without comment from skeptics (in other words, if you want it to be like Cure Zone), you may be an altie.
  • If you underwent conventional therapy for cancer and then underwent alternative medicine treatment but attribute your survival and present cancer-free condition to the alternative medicine and not the conventional therapy, you just might be an altie.
  • If you think it’s OK for misc.health.alternative (or any other such newsgroup) to be awash in advertising for snake oil quackery and other spam, you may be an altie.
  • If you frequently use the term “allopathic medicine” to refer to accepted evidence-based medicine (particularly if you either turn your nose up or sneer as you say it), you just might be an altie.
  • If you believe the trace of a dog’s milk molecule diluted 30C times has more healing power than 875 mg of amoxicillin, you might be an altie.
  • Speaking of amoxicillin, if you can believe that a coroner’s autopsy report that showed Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia, signs of chronic illness, and HIV encephalitis is more indicative of the cause of death being due to an acute allergic reaction to amoxicillin rather than to AIDS-related complications, you just might be an altie.
  • If you consider someone “doctor” because they have a diploma-mill ND, you might be an altie.
  • If you believe that alternative medicine practitioners are far more caring for their patients and far more moral (and therefore, by implication, less corruptible by money) than conventional doctors, you just might be an altie.
  • If you believe it’s perfectly logical that some alt-med clinic tucked away in a remote corner of some South American country (or on the outskirts of Tijuana) has been able to achieve amazing cure rates for many usually highly fatal cancers for years, all without publishing any data and without attracting the attention of any Western medical or science institutions or media whatsoever, then you must be an altie.
  • If seeing a company charge exhorbitant prices for herbs or other alternative medicine treatments doesn’t bother you in the least but you castigate pharmaceutical companies (which spend hundreds of millions of dollars and many years to get each new drug developed, tested, and approved) for price-gouging, you are very likely an altie.
  • If you dismiss every well-designed randomized clinical study that fails to show a benefit for an alternative medicine or therapy over a placebo control as either not proving that the therapy is ineffective or as having been manipulated by nefarious forces (conventional medicine, the pharmaceutical companies, the government, etc.) to produce a negative result, you may well be an altie.
  • If you call your backyard herb garden “the pharmacy”, you might be an altie.
  • If you think skeptics are close-minded and paranoid with no possible exception and they’re all out to get you, you might be an altie.
  • If you can go on and on for hours about how many people die from medical errors but become confused and defensive when someone mentions the victims of alternative medicine, you might be an altie.
  • If you get sicker and sicker while taking echinacea but tell everyone you’re feeling better, you might be an altie.
  • If you say your healer “is too busy people making people healthy” to conduct evidence-based trials but have never met a single person helped by them, you might be an altie.
  • If you excuse your healer and other alternative medicine practitioners from conducting evidence-based clinical trials of their treatments on the grounds that there is no money to support well-designed clinical trials testing alternative medicine even though the yearly budget for the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine is over $120 million, you just might be an altie.
  • If you believe that there really are herbal cures for diabetes and cancer, but the government forbids their sale because pharmaceutical companies need to make money from their “expensive drugs that don’t work,” there’s a good chance that you’re an altie.
  • If you’ve read Kevin Trudeau’s Natural Cures “They” Don’t Want You To Know About and consider it to be truthful and chock full of useful medical information that you can’t wait to try out, you are without a doubt an altie.
  • If you’ve actually forked out $499 for a lifetime membership to Kevin Trudeau’s website and consider it money well spent, you are without a doubt an altie. (And an easy mark, as well. Are you interested in some investments in land in Florida that I could hook you up with?)
  • If you believe that chelation is a valid treatment for autism, Alzheimer’s disease, coronary artery disease, or any medical condition other than heavy metal poisoning properly documented with appropriate symptoms and laboratory tests, you are well on the way to being an altie; that is, if you’re not one already.
  • If you think that vaccines do far more harm than good, you’re probably an altie.
  • If you believe that the Mohammed Al-Bayati is a credible authority on pathology and does good science, you just might be an altie.
  • If you think that HIV can be cured with herbal supplements that “boost the immune system,” you’re an altie.
  • If you can look at a study that doesn’t mention alternative medicine and that actually points out that its results should cast doubt on claims of “miracle cures,” and still conclude that the study shows that alternative medicine can cure “incurable” cancers, you’re definitely an altie.
  • Finally, if you are deeply offended by the above list, you just might be an altie!

Feel free to send me suggestions for more “You just might be an altie” items! Back when I posted the first iteration of this list, I probably got maybe 1/50th the traffic that I do now. With more eyeballs checking out this list, I’m sure that you, my readers, can help me continue to expand the list.

Come on, folks, don’t let me down. Get me more “You just might be an altie…” items. Give them to me in the comments! Let’s see how many “You might be an altie” items we can come up with!

Every few months, I’ll post a new and updated iteration of “What is an altie?” I hope to have at least two or three times the number above by the time the 2007 edition rolls around.

Comments

  1. #1 Fore Sam
    February 17, 2006

    ORAC;
    You would call me an Altie even though I followed your advice and it worked. I chelated my kid for mercury poisoning which you said was the proper treartment. His constipation went away. He can now feel pain. He doesn’t drag one leg when he walks anymore. He makes eye contact, has about normal receptive language, speaks once in a while, stopped banging his head, stopped biting himself, stopped screaming for no apparent reason, can do puzzles and count to at least 10. He lets me read to him instead of eating the book. He stopped smearing feces. The chelation might not cure him completely but he’s certainly come a long way with 20 full rounds and 17 partial rounds of chelation. Now, all we have to do is to get you to admit that mercury had something to do with the autism.

  2. #2 Orac
    February 17, 2006

    I have never advised any parent to chelate their child for autism, nor have I ever said that chelation therapy was the appropriate therapy for autism. Quite the contrary, in fact, as my regular readers know. Don’t try to state or imply that I gave you any such advice.

  3. #3 Bartholomew Cubbins
    February 17, 2006

    Great List! I keep imagining Jeff Foxworthy in a lab coat delivering these to a convention center full of lab coats. Maybe Carrot Top could open for him since he looks like the victim of some altie shenaniganry.

    Foresam, “we” being like four guys.

  4. #4 BronzeDog
    February 17, 2006

    If you accept without questioning vague and/or poorly documented anecdotes and testimonials as sufficient evidence for you that an “alternative” therapy can produce remarkable results “curing” cancer, heart disease, autism, Alzheimers, etc., but routinely brutally nitpick and then dismiss well-designed randomized, double-blinded Phase III clinical studies for conventional medicine, you just might be an altie.

    You’ve got Fore Sam pegged, Orac.

  5. #5 TheProbe
    February 17, 2006

    By implication, you are claiming that creationists are more rational than an altie. I would place them on an even par.

    One of the main characteristics of an altie (alternative term is ‘altnut’) is that it is perfectly acceptable for them to trash the messenger when the message calls one of their Firmly Held Beliefs into question. However, if it is pointed out by John Stossel and Steve Barrett that one of their gurus, e.g. Kevin Trudeau, is nothing more than a twice convicted felon who is a well known scam artist, it is an evil thing and not true, although Dr. Sidney Wolfe, who is no lackey for “organized medicine” excoriated Trudeau and his message in the same broadcast.

    They main underlying characteristic of an altie is that they have a blatant double standard, or no standard at all.

  6. #6 NephSpouse
    February 17, 2006

    Sam, the truth is that Autism has a really good spontaneous improvement rate, some studies put it as high or higher than 40% depending on what they consider enough of an improvement to count. This makes it a very good target for altie cures, since they can claim that those improvements are due to them.

    What you’re going to have to face is that your child would be exactly where he is now, even if you had not spent large amounts of money on endangering his life with quack docs.

  7. #7 big Al
    February 17, 2006

    I have finally got back to your blog at your new site. Floreat.

  8. #8 Ali
    February 17, 2006

    Old news, but in case you haven’t seen it:
    Kevin Trudeau Banned from Infomercials

    It’s just another example of The Man trying to keep The Truth from the people. At least that’s what Alex Jones tells me. When I visit him on my space ship.

  9. #9 Fore Sam
    February 17, 2006

    Orac;
    I said: “I chelated my kid for mercury poisoning which you said was the proper treatment”. You said: “I have never advised any parent to chelate their child for autism…”.
    So, if you switch the words around, you can dodge the question. You did say that chelation was the proper treatment for mercury poisoning.
    Doublespeak and “stonewalling” fail to address the subject. I predict the next reply will be; “I am not a crook” while holding up the peace symbol.
    And, of course, addressing the improvement in symptoms would be out of the question, especially the obvious neurological problems like dragging a leg and having no sense of touch.
    It’s time for doctors to end the charade. They should have known they were giving babies too much mercury. They can make themsekves look better by helping to cure the kids now. The longer the lie goes on, the tougher it is to climb out of the hole they dug for themselves.

  10. #10 Bartholomew Cubbins
    February 17, 2006

    And doctors don’t have kids.
    And they don’t vaccinate their kids.
    And some other nonsense… Foresam, this absolutism was cute for a bit but it’s really stale.

  11. #11 Ali
    February 17, 2006

    Fore Sam:

    I’d really like to see where Orac said anything close to “chelation was the proper treatment for mercury poisoning” – please provide a link to that statement. I’ve been reading his blog for a long time now, and I would be very surprised to see that, since he often says the exact opposite.

    “addressing the improvement in symptoms”
    For actual research, please see this.

    As for the mercury-autism link, while your searching for Orac’s stance on chelation, I’m pretty sure you’ll find ample discussion on that subject.

  12. #12 Ali
    February 17, 2006

    grr.. I meant “you’re” of course.

  13. #13 Skeptico
    February 17, 2006

    Amazing timing, considering the series of comments by an altie on my blog today.

  14. #14 Rob
    February 17, 2006

    Granted, not in medical school (at least not yet), but I have a degree in Human Biology, and as far as I know, chelation could work for mercury poisoning (just like it would work for lead poisoning). Orac, please correct me if I’m wrong on this. Fore Sam, the problem with this is that you assume three things: 1. That your kid was actually poisoned with the miniscule amounts of mercury in his or her vaccines. 2. That this mercury poisoning causes autism. 3. That even though the mercury in his or her body would be long gone by now, treating it with chelation will somehow reverse nerve damage. Wrong, wrong, and more wrong. Just think about it, if you ingested strychnine and got better because your liver and kidneys cleaned it up, but then had kidney problems a year later, would you still try to treat it by removing the strychnine? No, because it’s long gone, but the damage is still there. You would treat it with dialysis, kidney transplant or some medication, not by trying to remove a poison that isn’t even left in the body! Try thinking a little next time, it may hurt at first, but I promise you and your kid will be better off for it.

  15. #15 Steve
    February 17, 2006

    Fore Sam, any Mercury poisoning going around probably came from some Chinese medicine or other….

    “Fufang Luhui Jiaonang capsules were found to contain around 13% mercury, and were supplied in blister packs contained within a cream and blue carton.”

    13%!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! flip me 13%

    http://www.mhra.gov.uk/home/idcplg?IdcService=SS_GET_PAGE&nodeId=663

  16. #16 Orac
    February 17, 2006

    To clarify:

    Chelation is an appropriate treatment for acute mercury poisoning, but it is not an appropriate treatment for autism. The reason ought to be clear, but for Foresam’s benefit I’ll spell it out explicitly: It’s because autism is not mercury poisoning. The evidence does not support the contention that autism is mercury poisoning. Finally, even if autism were mercury poisoning, there is no evidence that chelation, done years after the “insult,” would do one bit of good to reverse the neurologic damage presumed to have been caused by mercury.

    Can I be any more clear than that?

    The fallacy of Foresam’s thinking is that he swallows the Generation Rescue line whole and assumes that “childhood neurological disorders such as autism, Asperger’s, ADHD/ADD, speech delay, sensory integration disorder, and many other developmental delays are all misdiagnoses for mercury poisoning.”

  17. #17 Ali
    February 17, 2006

    I was thinking about it on the way to the neuro lab (oh no! I’m part of the conspiracy!), and I realized I had hastily posted that reply and confused Fore Sam’s line about mercury with chelation for autism. Apologies for the mistake; a fight was breaking out next door while I was posting, so I was a little distracted. ;)

  18. #18 Anonymous
    February 17, 2006

    Rob;
    Perhaps you are not aware that once the mercury clears the blood, it remains in the brain, intestines, liver and kidneys in those children who can not excrete it. It’s not so much that mercury causes nerve damage but the fact that the mercury inhibits methylation. The body can’t produce methyl B-12 and the brain won’t work right without it. When adding methyl B-12 resulting in the onset of speech, it stands to reason that when the mercury comes out, the body will be able to produce the MB-12 itself. Why would the MB-12 produce speech at all if the mercury had done irreversible damage?
    Orac;
    Thank you. There we have your statement again that chelation is an appropriate treatment for acute mercury poisoning. What could be more acute than autism, aside from death, of course, as in SIDS? Did I miss your conjecture as to what might have caused the sense of touch to return and the leg to start working properly? Is this where you plug in the anecdotal evidence argument and shoot me down for not having done a DBCS to confirm those improvements? And then some genetic enthusiast will chime in with evidence about kids who regress being programmed to function normally for awhile before they suddenly lose all their speech. “I am not a crook”. “Stonewall those reporters”. “What tapes”?

  19. #19 BronzeDog
    February 17, 2006

    So, if you switch the words around, you can dodge the question. You did say that chelation was the proper treatment for mercury poisoning.

    I’m guessing that under Fore Sam’s logic “I’m not married” qualifies as dodging/stonewalling the question of “Have you stopped beating your wife yet?”

    And, of course, it’s my understanding that chelation is a proper treatment of mercury poisoning. It’s NOT a proper treatment for an entirely unrelated condition like autism.

  20. #20 Fore Sam
    February 17, 2006

    I see Bronze Dog has no conjecture about the leg or sense of touch either. As usual, more evasion.

  21. #21 Jason Powers
    February 17, 2006

    I’m not a medical doctor so I can’t verify the quality of medical treatments, especially home-inflicted ones. However, I’ve been using this intarweb since Fidonet and I know a troll when I see one. Fore Sam is specifically and purposefully goading you into an argument by copying the style of an uninformed “altie”. It’s the nature of putting a semiliterate culture like ours in the U.S. in communication with each other via text, people can exploit vagaries in the English language to write generic messages, then let you project your frustration with a relevant “type” onto what you read. The result is you wasting keystrokes blustering and them feeling superior for exploiting your naivete.

    Years of arguing on the internet will train anyone: respond once, link to source information, if their response doesn’t show they’re reading the information, then don’t waste another second talking to them.

    Creationism arguments are pretty much the best examples of how to deal with this, just link to talkorigins and tell them you’re not doing their homework for them. Maybe a similar document would help cut down on the ‘altard’ angst.

  22. #22 Sastra
    February 17, 2006

    To respond to your request for new oneliners:

    If you say that bioenergetic fields have been reliably demonstrated in clinical studies and are not scientifically controversial AND you also say that scientists deserve criticism for their close-minded failure to escape materialist presuppositions and accept bioenergetic fields — IN THE SAME CONVERSATION — then you just might be an altie.

  23. #23 Orac
    February 17, 2006

    Sastra,

    Now THAT’s what I’m talking about: More one-liners, fewer trolls like Foresam. (Yes, from long years of Usenet experience I recognize a troll when I see one, but occasionally when I’m in just the right mood I sometimes succumb to the temptation to “feed the troll.” Sorry. It’s a weakness I had even on Usenet.)

    So, enough feeding the troll, I want more “You might be an altie if…” one-liners!

  24. #24 ebohlman
    February 17, 2006

    If you speak of the AMA as if it were a government regulatory agency, you just might be an altie.

    If you believe that a “healthy” person’s shit literally doesn’t stink, you’re definitely an altie (I suspect the reason chlorophyll has a reputation as a “detoxifier” is that it’s actually an effective stool deodorizer).

    If you assert that dosage, mean dosage and standard deviation of dosage are all “pharm concepts” that aren’t relevant to your favorite remedy, you’re probably an altie.

    If you talk about the pH of the “body,” you’re either an altie or have access to a very large blender.

    If you’re standing at the blackboard writing:

    HIV does not exist
    HIV is harmless and does not cause AIDS
    HIV is a genetically engineered bioweapon

    you’re the AltieBart.

  25. #25 Hank Barnes
    February 17, 2006

    Hey, whaddya know, Orac has a sense of humor!

    No, I’m not an altie. That stuff don’t work.

    The problem, though, is that pharmaceutical drugs — even in correct doses — often kill you.

    See, Lazarou, JAMA (1998)

    According to Lazarou, fatal adverse drug reactions (correct dose, not overdose) account for about 106,000 deaths/year.

    After heart attack, cancer and stroke, that’s the 4th biggest killer in USA.

    I know you boys ain’t too fond of actually citing and quoting from the published literature, but here’s a choice tidbit from Lazarou:

    We have found that serious ADRs are frequent and more so than generally recognized. Fatal ADRs appear to be between the fourth and sixth leading cause of death. Their incidence has remained stable over the last 30 years.

    Here’s another:

    Research to determine the hospital costs directly attributable to an ADR estimated that ADRs may lead to an additional $1.56 to $4 billion in direct hospital costs per year in the United States.57-58

    So, Heck ya, it’s fun to beat up on the granola, tofu, bean-sprout enema crowd and their silly medical superstitions. It beats facing up to the hundreds of thousands of deaths and billions in costs attributable to quack doctors, endemic to the profession.

    Hank Barnes

    p.s. Happy President’s Day!

  26. #26 Someone
    February 17, 2006

    This just in:

    Life has been found to be universally fatal. Regardless of dosage, all living things will inevitably die.

    If you believe in the contrary, you are definitely an altie.

    We now return you to your regularly scheduled commentary.

  27. #27 jmy
    February 17, 2006

    Great topic for this conversation: Wilhelm Reich
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wilhelm_Reich

    So here goes,

    You might be an altie (cue Kate Bush’s Cloudbusting) if you have an Orgone Accumulator (ORAC) rusting in your backyard.

  28. #28 Anonymous
    February 17, 2006

    Hmmm…

    If you think ‘artifical’ medicines contain harmful impurities not found in ‘natural’ ones – as opposed to the other way around – you’re probably an altie.

    If you talk confidently about quantum mechanics, string theory and alternate universes, but find algebra scary, you could be an altie.

    If you think a measles vaccine causes autism, but not because of mercury, you’re a british altie.

  29. #29 Kapitano
    February 17, 2006

    If you believe in ADD, ADHD, Asperger’s Syndrome, Social Anxiety Disorder, MPD and Recovered Memory, but not in the Oedipus Complex, Hysteria or Demonaical Possession, then you’re an altie who think’s they’re a skeptic.

  30. #30 Kapitano (again)
    February 17, 2006

    If you think this article is serious and insightful, you are altissimo.

  31. #31 Terry Johnson
    February 17, 2006

    Hank,

    3/4ths of the incidents were dose-dependent, but not overdoses. 1/4th were allergic reactions. How can you attribute any of the former to “quack” doctors if there was no theraputic failure?

    The study in a nutshell: if you’re very ill and given a drug with potentially harmful side-effects, there is a significant risk associated with taking that drug. Nowhere does it say that, on average, you’d be better off taking nothing.

    Damn good reason to continue research characterizing individual reactions to pharmaceuticals via genetic or metabolic information, though.

  32. #32 Dad Of Cameron
    February 17, 2006

    If your definition of “acceptable risk” is:

    “What the hell, let’s give it shot, what have we got to lose”?

    You might be an altie.

    If you “think” recommended dosages are for sissies, and that median ED/LD’s are best determined by experimentation on your child…

    You might be an altie.

  33. #33 Orac
    February 17, 2006

    Hank is also obviously seeking to distract attention from the main point–the lack of science or evidence for the efficacy of the vast majority of alternative medicine “cures” and the offenses against science and logic all too many alties routinely perpetrate. He also seems to think that I haven’t read the JAMA paper to which he refers.

    The Lazarou study has been roundly criticized for methodological flaws, including lumping together rates of ADRs from the 1960′s on. There was also considerably heterogeneity in the studies included in the metanalysis that made including them in a metanalysis questionable.

    Even so, even if the Lazarou study were spot-on accurate, Terry gets the implications of it correct. More importantly, even if the Lazarou study were correct, it would not constitute a defense of alternative medicine.

    Everyone else, keep the “You might be an altie if…” one-liners coming!

  34. #34 Hank Barnes
    February 17, 2006

    The Lazarou study has been roundly criticized for methodological flaws

    LOL. I notice when you get spanked you tend to make up stuff. In your world, Does the phrase “roundly criticized” mean the same as recently confirmed by similar prospective studies in other countries?

    Money Quote from the British Journal of Medicine in 2000:

    Our findings are similar to results obtained in two meta-analyses. In Australia, an incidence of between 2.4% – 3.6% was found and in the United States an incidence of between 3.6% and 6.2% was found.

    The authors are talking about hospitalizations required because of adverse drug reactions suffered by patients.

    Ya might by an “altie,” if the medicine your doctor prescribes makes ya real sick:)

    Barnes

    Hank B.

  35. #35 BronzeDog
    February 17, 2006

    I see Bronze Dog has no conjecture about the leg or sense of touch either. As usual, more evasion.

    If you think shifting burden of proof onto someone who doesn’t have access to medical information on an unverifiable, unblinded, uncontrolled anecdote is the height of debate, you might be an altie.

    If you think someone pointing out your failed efforts to shift the burden of proof is “evasion,” you might be an altie.

  36. #36 Greg P
    February 17, 2006

    Orac, I’m not sure I understand this periodic trolling for trolls that you do…an obsession? a character flaw? simply a boost-my-sitemeter ratings ploy?

  37. #37 BronzeDog
    February 17, 2006

    My brother has a hypothesis that all humor (except maybe slapstick) is based in logical fallacies. If we can’t learn to laugh, we end up crying.

  38. #38 ForeSam
    February 17, 2006

    What a bunch of gutless wonders! Will MD’s ever stop harming infants?

  39. #39 Bartholomew Cubbins
    February 18, 2006

    Ya might by an “altie,” if the medicine your doctor prescribes makes ya real sick:)

    Barnes

    Hank B.

    Oooooh. A convert. /rolls eyes

    You might be an altie if you view cherry picking quotes from the abstracts available on pubmed to be the main duty description in your role as soldier in the war against vaccinations.

    You might be an altie if you cite a contentious review as gospel and declare victory over your imagined enemy (99.99% of the world) in the process.

  40. #40 Helga Herxheimer
    February 18, 2006

    If you think that your kid is getting better when you dose him with something recommended by a “Defeat Autism Now!” doctor or Rashid Buttar because the kid grows pale, vomits, breaks out in a rash, loses hair, skin starts peeling and he has a serious change of fecal color or has a seizure and/or a high fever, you are probably Fore Sam or one of his altie antivax buddies from the altie autism boards and the quacks just love you to bits.

    If you are like Fore Sam and you refuse to see that your buddies are a quacks and liars who are ripping off parents, then you just mightbe delusional.

    If you write about Herxheimer reactions in autistic kids but you can’t spell “Herxheimer” you are probably Rashid (coffee enemas are our friends) Buttar.

    If you think you can put a paste of bloodroot on your skin that will eat a big hole through your flesh and that what is happening is really that cancer is being pulled out of your body and that the accompanying pain is necessary and better than what allopathic medicine would offer you, you are likely an altie.

    If you are saving up for your own Ondamed ™ device, you might be an altie.

    If you’ve ever grown/brewed your own jar/crock of “Kombucha tea”, yup, you’re an altie.

    If reading the words “quackwatch.org” makes you break out in a cold sweat, you might be an altie.

    If you think moxabustion, high colonics and ear candling are really fun things to do, you’re probably an altie.

    If you named your child Mugwort, pretty good chance that you’re an altie.

    Orac, the link to the Hulda Clark liver fluke thing doesn’t work, it has an extra http: in the link.

  41. #41 Steve
    February 18, 2006

    If you think natural is synonymous with good then you’re probably an altie.

  42. #42 Kev
    February 18, 2006

    “His constipation went away. He can now feel pain. He doesn’t drag one leg when he walks anymore…..has about normal receptive language, speaks once in a while, stopped banging his head, stopped biting himself, stopped screaming for no apparent reason, can do puzzles and count to at least 10. He lets me read to him instead of eating the book. He stopped smearing feces.”

    And as we all know, these are textbook indicators for autism.

  43. #43 Fore Sam
    February 18, 2006

    Kev;
    Nice of you to show us another yellow answer. Too bad you can’t argue with the statement you quoted.

  44. #44 Fore Sam
    February 18, 2006

    Helga;
    If you think mercury doesn’t cause autism, you might be a baby killer. Is that better than turning to alt. med. when the baby poisoners won’t help you?

  45. #45 Fore Sam
    February 18, 2006

    Orac; Would addressing the return of sense of touch and a normal leg be “feeding a troll”? Why do you dodge a question that simply proves your point about chelation being the right treatment for mercury poisoning?
    Do doctors get blackballed for telling the truth about autism?

  46. #46 Kapitano
    February 18, 2006

    If you read Orac’s blog just so you can start arguments, you are probably missing the point.

  47. #47 Orac
    February 18, 2006

    LOL. I notice when you get spanked you tend to make up stuff.

    I notice that, in your supposed “spanking,” you continue to evade Terry’s and my points, which are:

    1. Even if the Lazarou study were accurate, it would not constitute a defense of alternative medicine, nor, more importantly, would it show that alt med does a better job than conventional medicine or that the jokes in this post are without merit.

    2. Terry’s point: The study in a nutshell: if you’re very ill and given a drug with potentially harmful side-effects, there is a significant risk associated with taking that drug. Nowhere does it say that, on average, you’d be better off taking nothing.

    You must be bored since Tara took off for the weekend; so you come over here to troll my blog. And, yes, you are a troll, as is obvious from your behavior on Tara’s blog and on the MUSC Tiger a while back. Your calling me an “intellectual poseur” over on Aetiology is an utterly transparent attempt to draw me out. The fact is, the Lazarou report was widely discussed at our faculty meetings, at several national meetings I attended, and in various committee functions. Its pros and cons were dissected ad nauseum. It still comes up from time to time even now. You would know this if you had any clue.

    You also seem to have mistaken me for someone else when you claim that I never take on craziness in “conventional medicine.” You obviously haven’t been reading me very long. Try these two for starters:

    Battling quackery in conventional medicine

    Avoiding scientific delusions

    You are also mistaken in implying that I am unrelentingly hostile to alternative medicine. I just want it to be evidence-based, and I applaud efforts to do so:

    Now that’s the way you do it!

    In any case, I know my limitations; you apparently don’t. My observation of your behavior over on Tara’s blog leads me to conclude that your MO is thus: You cherry pick one article and keep beating on it again and again, in Tara’s case the Padian article and in my case the Lazarou article. At least here you were able to find a second article. Congratulations. I now predict that you’ll go off to Medline in search of more now that I’ve pointed this out. It will all be a smokescreen because it will not address the central point: The ineffectiveness of the vast majority of alternative medicine and the offenses against reason, evidence, and science that are used by alties to justify all too much of it.

    Oh, and I also predict that you’ll throw around some more insults and accuse me of “whining” again. It’s what you do. You don’t seem to be able to help yourself.

    In any case, this ain’t Usenet. It’s my blog. I decide what I will and will not discuss and when. If I feel like responding to you (like right now) I will. If I don’t, I won’t, and no amount of your petulant name-calling will draw me out. I have only a certain amount of time each week to dedicate to writing for this blog, and I don’t want to waste any more of it than I already have on you.


    Back to more “You just might be an altie if…” items. Keep ‘em coming.

  48. #48 Ronald Brak
    February 18, 2006

    If you tell me not to touch my apple because it’s covered in pesticide while you’re eating a Big Mac, you may be an altie.

    If you buy your kids cokes while protesting against water fluridation, you may be an altie.

    If your grandmother never talks about the two children she lost as infants and you hear other family members and your friends talking about how dangerous immunization is and so you become concerned for the health of your children, you may be human.

  49. #49 Hank Barnes
    February 18, 2006

    You cherry pick one article and keep beating on it again and again, in Tara’s case the Padian article and in my case the Lazarou article. At least here you were able to find a second article. Congratulations

    LOL! So, Orac, you’re now a: (a) surgeon, (b) scientist and (c) a drama queen to boot:)

    Lemme quickly clarify a few things for you:

    1. I tend to agree that alternative medicines don’t really work.

    2. I tend to agree that to determine whether they actually work, they oughta be subject to some rigorous, case-controlled studies.

    3. Padian was “the largest and longest study of heterosexual transmission of HIV in the United States.” (Padian, page 354.)

    4. Yes, I try to quote the best paper on the relevant subject. Don’t you?:)

    5. Padian and Lazarou were not obtained on line — I have hard copies of these papers, as well as perhaps 1000 or so more relating to AIDS, cancer, adverse drug reactions, etc, etc. Would you like to discuss those too?

    6. I’m glad that you discussed Lazarou ad nauseum — what did you do about it?

    Ciao,

    Barnes

  50. #50 HCN
    February 18, 2006

    You might be an altie if even with overwhelming evidence that you might be wrong, you absolutely refuse to admit any error in your thinking.

    An example of this recently in misc.health.alternative is “vernon” who think he knows the history of homeopathy:
    This is part of the conversation

  51. #51 Ivan
    February 18, 2006

    And again, Hank won’t answer the central question which is….

    (sing it with me, boys and girls)

    Even if Lazarou is completely correct, is it better to take a drug with potentially harmful side effects or to simply suffer from the condition which the drug can treat?

    Ivan

  52. #52 Nana
    February 18, 2006
  53. If you believe the soil depletion theory and stock

    up on megadoses of vitamins, you might be an Altie.

  54. If you believe that removing your amalgams will

    help your illness, you might be an Altie.

  55. If you believe that a clinic on a dirt road in

    Mexico can cure your cancer, you might be an Altie.

  56. If you believe that thimerosal is 49% mercury, you

    might be an Altie.

  57. If you believe that a Naturopath has more medical

    knowledge than a Medical Doctor, you might be an

    Altie.

  58. If you try every protocol found on the Internet to

    eliminate mercury/parasites/allergies, you might be an

    Altie.

  • #53 TheProbe
    February 18, 2006

    If you think medicine is organized, you ARE an altie.

  • #54 Magnus Malmborn
    February 18, 2006

    If your replies start with “lol” you probably are an altie.

  • #55 BronzeDog
    February 18, 2006

    If you try bazillions of cures until symptoms go away, then declare the last one to be a cure, you might be an altie.

    If you think researching a possible cure is a waste of time because you have to cure people right now with your shot in the dark, you might be an altie.

    If you like to talk about some anonymous guy’s finances before you talk about a critical medical issue in a blog entry about that very critical medical issue, you might be an altie.

    If you think financial motivations alter the laws of thermodynamics, you might be an altie.

    If you complain about the chlorine in Splenda while putting salt on your dinner, you might be an altie.

    If you complain about Coca-Cola’s acidity while drinking a glass of orange juice, you might be an altie.

    If you have a conspiracy theory that requires the non-existence of doctors who are both compassionate and require double-blind control studies to make decisions, then you might be an altie.

  • #56 Kev
    February 19, 2006

    “Too bad you can’t argue with the statement you quoted.”

    As ever John, what possible argument is there to someone who is just plain old wrong? Unless of course you know where the loss of feeling in ones leg is in the ASD diagnostic criteria?

  • #57 BronzeDog
    February 19, 2006

    If you routinely complain that evidence-based medicine doesn’t work as well as the mass heal, greater restoration, and true ressurection cleric spells, and consider that a legitimate argument in favor of unproven quackery, you might be an altie.

  • #58 Someone
    February 20, 2006

    “If you believe that thimerosal is 49% mercury, you might be an Altie.”

    Except that its about 47.5% mercury, based on my quick calculation. That’s close enough to move it to “misinformed” rather than “altie”.

  • #59 BronzeDog
    February 20, 2006

    If you complain that evidence-based medicine doesn’t work as well as the mass heal, greater restoration and true ressurection spells, and consider that to be a legitimate argument in favor of unproven quackery, you might be an altie.

  • #60 Dr. Andy
    February 20, 2006

    Here is a few

    If you believe the plural of anecdote is data you are probably an altie

    If you believe alternative and complementary therapies cannot adequately be studied using randomized, double-blind, placebo controlled trials because they miss the essence of the therapy, as was recently suggested in an articlein the BMJ, you are almost certainly an altie.

  • #61 The Brummell
    February 20, 2006

    If you prefer to use the term “babies” to describe all children under the age of 10, there’s an outside chance you’re an altie.

    If your arguments tend to degenerate to comments about “baby poisoners” while never once considering the concept of “infant mortality rate”, the massive reduction in infant mortality in industrialized societies in the last 150 years, or what that means in the grand scheme of human happiness, you’re almost certainly an altie.

    If you’ve ever screamed “won’t somebody please think of the children?!”, you might be an altie.

    If you refuse to believe that any disease or condition could possibly cure itself or regress to a mean, that all improvements in health are driven by outside influences, while simultaneously describing the body’s own miraculous healing powers, you are an altie.

    If you don’t know that many diseases are caused by the immune system, under the term “autoimmune disorders”, and that “boosting” or “energizing” one’s immune system is the key to health and longevity, you might be on the path to being an altie.

    And finally, if you were offended by this list to the point of becoming troll, you are either an altie or just a garden-variety jackass.

    Thanks Orac, I’ve been reading your stuff for a few months now, keep up the good work!

  • #62 clone3g
    February 20, 2006

    If you respond to skeptics by pointing out how Semmelweis was ridiculed for his ideas……

  • #63 Ali
    February 21, 2006

    If you don’t know the difference (or know that there is a difference) between ethylmercury and methylmercury, yet still claim you know that thimerosal in vaccines causes autism, you might be an altie. (You might also want to read this.)

  • #64 EtherPundit
    February 22, 2006

    If you attribute the sudden, radical decline in polio incidence that occurred when the Salk vaccine was introduced to the fact that “polio rates were already declining anyway” … you may be an altie.

    If you believe that…
    – A worsening of symptoms proves your alt.therapy is “cleaning out the toxins”
    – An improvement in symptoms proves your alt.therapy has cured you
    – Unchanged symptoms prove your alt.therapy has “halted the progression of disease”
    … you may just be an altie.

    If you insist that “the flu shot gave you the flu,” and your evidence is that you got a “stomach flu” 3 months after getting the shot… you may be an altie. Or just a garden-variety idiot.

    If you can utter or hear the words “psychic surgery” with a straight face… you could just possibly be an altie.

    If you believe that any efficacious treatment for anything ever could, or should, be 100% safe for everybody… you must be an altie. (Corollary: If you believe that a drug/vaccine that saves 1,000,000 lives and kills 5 people is no better than rat poison… I’m afraid you might be an altie.)

    If you believe that this makes logical sense:
    – My child did not get the pertussis vaccine.
    – Yet my child did not get pertussis.
    – Therefore, the pertussis vaccine is useless…
    … well, it looks like you might be an altie.

    (Corollary: If you react violently when someone suggests your children stay healthy because of the herd immunity bestowed by all those kids who did get the vaccines… you might be an altie.)

  • #65 Keith Carlson
    February 26, 2006

    As a nurse who firmly believes in the efficacy of myriad medical treatments and the veracity of reproducible scientific research, I also subscribe to some alternative views. That said, I never buy an alternative treatment hook, line and sinker, and often caution others to be more discerning.

    There is more and more research being done on alternative therapies (echinacea, for instance) and the acceptance of the importance of such studies by the wider medical community is crucial. It is also important that alternative-minded people who call for research actually accept the results of said studies, especially if the studies were done properly and transparently (like echinacea, again), and even if said research debunks a popular herbal remedy or treatment.

    My personal practice is to consult alternative providers for specific issues (acupuncture for various issues, chiropractors for back pain), but also to take antibiotics when needed, not to mention the pharmaceuticals that daily enhance and improve my life.

    Over all, there is a middle road, I believe, with room for all, as long as intelligence and rational thinking rule the day.

  • #66 ewt
    July 7, 2006

    If you refuse treatment for depression that is an understandable side-effect of your chronic, painful illness because you think receiving such treatment would mean admitting your illness is “all in your head” and you wouldn’t then be able to access further treatment for the disease itself, you might be an altie.

    If you believe your overweight or obesity is caused by “toxins” and take great pains to remove these toxins from your diet and home, while neglecting to look at whether you may simply need to eat less or get more exercise (or indeed check for underlying medical conditions like hypothyroidism), you might be an altie.

    If being seen to be right about your chosen theory or treatment is more important to you than recovering as much of your health as possible, you might be an altie.

  • #67 Blop
    July 29, 2006

    You’re an ass

  • #68 Orac
    July 29, 2006

    Ah, an altie speaks. ;-)

  • #69 pat
    July 29, 2006

    If your greatest contribution to medical science is a collection of one-liners, you’re probably a passive-aggressive Quack!Quack!Quack!. Wow this is fun!

  • #70 pat
    July 29, 2006

    BronzeDog says
    “My brother has a hypothesis that all humor (except maybe slapstick) is based in logical fallacies. If we can’t learn to laugh, we end up crying.”

    Your brother is absolutely correct,this thread is a joke

  • #71 pat
    July 29, 2006

    Orac is witnessing the complete and total self-destruction of his own credibility and that of this blog.

  • #72 allopathic nurse
    July 30, 2006

    if you use the term “allopathic” when referring to evidence based medicine.. you’re an altie!
    if you believe pro biotic yoghurt cures measles.. you’re an altie.
    if you spout ani vax propaganda while relying on herd immunity to protect your(unvaccinated) children.. you’re an altie , and a selfish hippocrate to boot.
    if you believe polio was not wiped out by vaccination, and that FDR in fact had EPV .. you’re an altie ( and probably posting on whale.to)
    if you believe chiro works.. you’re an altie.
    if your response to any criticism of your pet woo woo is- “allopathic medicine and evil big pharma kill 100,000 people a year”… you guessed it , you are most definately an altie.
    if you believe measles is harmless… altie
    if you believe enemas cure anything other than constipation… altie
    if you use the words- energy, vibrations and quantum when discussing vitamins/crystals/homeopathy etc.. altie through and through.
    if you believe carl sagen and james randi are members of the illuminati…. altie!
    as a nurse i feel that i have a responsibilty to only support treatments that are evidence based and there seems to be very little evidence ( just plenty of anecdotes)for all the altie favourites. shouting about how terrible “allopathic” medicine is ,and conspiracy theories about the medical profession do not constitute evidence. what do these true believer alties do if they get knocked down by a truck? do they ring for an alternative ambulance to take then to a homeopathic clinc? and wait for the sugar pill to mend their broken limbs and internal bleeding? im guessing they’re pretty happy to see “allopathic” doctors for proven treatments. all this altie stuff is dangerous self indulgence for rich westerners who know they have real medicine to fall back on when their altie crap invariably fails.
    awesome blog orac.

  • #73 anjou
    July 30, 2006

    You know your an altie when you are horrified that they are serving cookies and sweets in the chemo room because you know for certain that sugar feeds cancer…..and then you rant and rave about the wonders of juicing, that your off to drink a huge glass of beet juice (as if cancer can differentiate the types of sugar you are feeding it)

  • #74 bluebonics
    August 9, 2006

    As side splittingly funny as I find this, I do have a problem with allopathic nurse’s line:

    “if you use the words- energy, vibrations and quantum when discussing vitamins/crystals/homeopathy etc.. altie through and through.”

    While I agree that using the terms energy, vibrations and quantum while discussing vitamins and homeopathy denotes one as an altie, as a physics student, I’d have to disagree with the use of these things when dealing with crystals. “Quantum tunneling” will often be found conjuncture with “crystalline structures”. The seperation of energy from quantum mechanics is impossible as all quanta are viewed as discreet energy packets, thus it is inevitable that “energy” and “crystal” will coincide somewhere. Due to the structure of crystals, they have fairly accurate vibrational frequencies, which can also be quantized, as in a phonon. Also, crystals can play an important role in laser technologies such as quantum cascade lasers.

    I’m sure this is very far from the context in which an altie would use such terms, but to state that the use of such words directly correlates with one being an altie is absurd. I can’t wait for the day some granola crunching Oregonian “OG” nutbag brings up anything about quantum mechanics in my presence. In fact, I (unfortunately) resided in Oregon for a couple of years and in all that time did not hear any altie I encountered mention the word quantum (granted, I heard plenty about “energy vibrations aligning your chakras blah blah blah” which is what, I’m sure, you’re talking about).

  • #75 information and fioricet
    September 12, 2006

    Sorry people. Farewell.

  • #76 Bronze Dog
    September 15, 2006

    If you think the bald assertion of the possible existence of completely unspecified logical fallacies is devastating to your opponent, you might be an altie.

    If you think that ridicule designed to highlight your logical fallacies is inherently immoral and fallacious, you might be an altie.

    If you think that skeptics should hold a straight face when dealing with your silliness, AND that they should be more emotional when they do keep a straight face, you might be an altie.

    If you think your “putting babies on spikes” treatment is legitimate because a handful of kids had an allergy to something in the widespread, successful evidence-based treatment/prevention, you might be an altie.

    If you think hydrogen, hydrogen ions, hydroxide ions, oxygen, ozone, water, and hydrogen peroxide are all the same and can be labelled the same because they all contain H’s or O’s, you might be an altie.